“We’ve just run out of wine. What are we going to do about it?”

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Although it was unsuccessful when released in 1987, the British black comedy film Withnail and I has become a cult classic.

Written and directed by Bruce Robinson, who has always been a fan of fine wine – or of drinking, at any rate –  the plot follows two unemployed actors, Withnail (played by Richard E. Grant) and the never-named “I” (Paul McGann) who share a delapidated flat in Camden Town in North London in 1969.

Needing a holiday, they obtain the key to a cottage in the Lake District belonging to Withnail’s eccentric uncle Monty and drive there. The weekend holiday proves less recuperative than they expected.

Withnail and I Poster
Withnail and I Poster

Withnail and I is saturated with alcohol. There is only one specific wine reference: Château Margaux 1953, which Withnail has purloined from Monty’s cellar to toast Marwood’s departure.

“Best of the century”, says Withnail, who is shown drinking straight from the bottle in a wet Regent’s Park (where I am a frequent cyclist).

Best of the century? Well, does 1900 count as 20th century? Apparently not: A century starts with “01”. A pity, because Margaux 1900 would probably be the best of the 20th century.

By 1969, other candidates for best Margaux of the century would be 1924, 1926, 1928, 1929, 1945, 1947, 1949, 1953, 1955, 1959, and 1961.

Margaux began the 1960s with a wonderful wine in 1961 (though its neighbour Palmer was even better) but it sank into mediocrity and was well behind the other First Growths at this time (which is not saying much – it was a mostly grim period for the Bordeaux wine trade.)

Withnail & I 1953 Margaux
Withnail & I 1953 Margaux
Withnail & I in Regent's Park
Withnail & I in Regent’s Park

For this weekend, I will quote Withnail again:

“We want the finest wines available to humanity, we want them here, and we want them now!”

Stuart George | Founder & MD | Arden Fine Wines

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